A HOMILY FOR THE
SUNDAY AFTER THE EXALTATION OF THE CROSS

About Bearing Our Cross

 

Brothers and sisters!

          Today we heard the Gospel lection for the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross, which reminds us of the duty of every Christian to hoist his cross upon his shoulders and follow Christ.  If any man will come after me, says the Lord, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  By these words, the Savior makes it perfectly clear that there is but one path to the Kingdom, the one which He Himself took; that is, the path of the Cross.  Only he who takes up his cross and carries it willingly and, if possible, gladly, can truly be said to be a follower of Christ.  By the word cross, the cross a man bears in life, we should understand everything unpleasant, difficult, or sorrowful he must undergo.  This is why, when someone is beset by very difficult circumstances or a serious problem, people say, “He bears a heavy cross.”

          One of the parables from the Old Testament read at Vespers for the Exaltation of the Cross is the story from the Book of Exodus telling how, when Moses was leading his people through the wilderness of Shur, they went for three days without finding water.  Finally, they came to the spring of Marrah; however, its water was so bitter they could not drink it.  The Israelites began to murmur against Moses for having led them into such a wasteland; whereupon, the prophet prayed, and the Lord showed him a tree and commanded him to cast it into the spring.  Moses obeyed, and the water became sweet and pleasant to taste.

          Taking up the Cross, we should not imitate the ancient Hebrews, who were always complaining about their difficulties.  Rather, he who is resolved to bear his cross as he should, humbly submitting to God’s will, must regard everything that comes his way as sent by Providence.  He accepts the good and the bad equally as part of the Lord’s plan for his salvation, whereas he who complains and wallows in dissatisfaction and self-pity behaves not like a Christian, a follower of Christ, but like a spoiled child.  Whatever does not suit such a person seems to him almost unendurable.  The Lord – Who always prepares blessings for us through sufferings – distances Himself from such an ingrate, or rather, the ingrate distances himself from the crucified Lord and, if he does not repent and amend himself, inevitably works himself into an ever more wretched, lamentable state.

          One way or another, brothers and sisters, we must all inevitably endure grief, tribulations, and illnesses, so common sense tells us that we should act wisely and submit humbly to the divine will.  So doing, we shall find that the tree of the Cross sweetens the bitter waters of Marrah for us, making them pleasant to drink.  The same cross, the same sorrows that formerly weighed so heavily upon us become much lighter.  They do not necessarily disappear and may even be replaced by a heavier cross, by greater sorrows, but the effect on us changes completely, because we have accepted and come to understand what the Apostle says about God’s consolations multiplying with our troubles.

          As we venerate the Cross today, let us all remember that everything God sends our way will somehow be to our benefit, if only we truly believe this.  If we embrace our cross, it will become immeasurably easier to bear, and our whole life will become vastly happier and more meaningful.  What is far more, if we bear our own personal cross as Christ wishes us to do, His Holy Cross will become effectual for our salvation.

Not my will, but Thine, O Lord, be done!1  Amen.

 

1. Luke 22:42